How to break up with toxic clients
In the previous article, we discussed tricks for handling many client problems. However, some behavior is never acceptable, such as sexual harassment or violent threats. You also shouldn’t have to tolerate repeat offenses like constant complaining and regular no-shows.
So how do you get rid of someone who is bringing your business down?
We mentioned before how important it is to document everything related to the issue- what happened, when it happened, how you responded AND who can verify this. Witnesses can be key. If there is a dispute, two (or three or…) against one can help you stand your ground.
In most cases, whether you are an independent contractor or part of a shop, there is also someone else at the establishment who you can turn to (like a manager or shop owner). Show them exactly what has happened and what you propose to do about it. They’ll appreciate the heads up (and may have advice) and you will feel better knowing the business has your back.
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Address the client directly
The soft approach:
This is best for negative clients who always complain that the service doesn’t meet their standards or often ask for redos. At the end of their service, explain that it is clear from the client’s comments that this professional relationship is not a good fit. As much as you have appreciated their business, you think they would be happier with another service provider who can give them the results they want. Maybe they apologize and ask to stay- that is up to you. But you’ve made the point in a very classy way.
The harder approach:
Unfortunately, you will often have to resort to this with very toxic clients. No suggesting here. You thank them for their business, but explain it’s not a good fit for either of you and you have to ask them to find another service provider. If they are argumentative, YOU HAVE YOUR NOTES. You’ve warned them (and documented that). Use this and support from your colleagues. Stand firm: this is non-negotiable.
Some places will offer the final service for free as a form of a parting gift. Yeah, it’s not something you can afford to do regularly, but it will save you money (and sanity) down the road.
Be prepared for bad reviews
You dropped this client for a reason. The sad truth is that toxic clients are the most likely to cause trouble and leave negative reviews on any forum they can. This is painful, but we have tips specifically for handling negative reviews. Being professional in this situation can leave you looking like the bigger person and prevent lasting damage to your business.
Any other tips for client breakups? Want to share your own experience? We’d love to hear from you!